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Leather Shoe Charlie is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the Industrial Revolution. Set in England, it tells the story of a family that migrates to the city of Manchester to find work.
This family includes a boy named Charlie, who proudly wears leather shoes that his cobbler grandfather made for him. The family's new home is dark and cramped, and they all have to work long hours (child labor is referenced but not elaborated on in the story). Despite their difficulties, Charlie's shoes help to remind him of his dream of becoming a cobbler himself one day.
But then his mother develops a persistent cough. Charlie hears that tea is good for a cough, but tea is far too expensive for his family to afford, and so Charlie gives the only item(s) of value that he has to try and help his mother get better. The story ends there, but emphasizes that the loss of his shoes did not cause Charlie to lose sight of his dream.
At the end of the book there are four pages about the Industrial Revolution including information about working and living conditions, key terms, a timeline, and some stats.
I really love the illustrations in this book -- I'm not very proficient at artistic terminology, but I suppose one could call them a bit abstract, with lots of "brushstroke" effects. This led me to the website of the Balbusso Twins, and wow! They have some amazing stuff. I also found out that this book was originally published in Korean.
Considering all the information it contains, this book is a great way to learn about an important facet of history in a way that puts a human face to it. It's also an important reminder that difficult circumstances do not stop children from having dreams.
Author: Gyeong-hwa Kim
Illustrators: Anna Balbusso and Elena Balbusso
Content Advisory: None
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